Heart attack or ‘myocardial infarction’ is one of the most common coronary heart disease and it occurs due severe reduction of the blood supply to the heart. This reduction of blood supply occurs owing to the obstruction or spasm of one or more coronary (artery supplying blood to heart) arteries. Atherosclerosis (deposition of fat cells, cholesterol, inflammatory substances in the arteries which cause narrowing of arteries) is the leading cause of heart attacks. Nearly 32% percent of adults in India die due to coronary heart disease each year.The numbers are rising due to factors such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise, stress and unhealthy diet.

Heart attack infographics in low color style. Isolated icon and object Heart disease factors. Medical Infographic set elements and symbols for design.

Signs and symptoms

The most common signs and symptoms of heart attack are:

Pain, discomfort, pressure sensation on the left side or the center of the chest or left arm which may radiate to the neck, jaw or throat

Nausea and vomiting

Dizziness or lightheadedness

Rapid or irregular heartbeat

Indigestion or choking feeling (similar to heartburn)

Nervousness and anxiety

Extreme weakness

Shortness of breath

Diagnosis of heart attack

If you suspect the symptoms of heart attack, rush to the hospital immediately. An emergency team will begin to evaluate the symptoms and diagnose the heart attack. The following are the tests are performed for the diagnosis of heart attack

Electrocardiography (ECG)

An electrocardiogram helps to assess the electrical activity of the heart. Small electrodes or sensors are used to record the electrical impulses that your heart produces. The ECG can help to evaluate the degree of damage to the heart muscle and also locate where the damage has occurred.

Blood tests

A sample of your blood is collected and tested for the levels of cardiac enzymes and troponin. Cardiac enzymes and troponin (a protein marker) are normally found within the heart cells. However, when there is a damage to the heart muscle, these are released in the blood stream. The levels of these components help to determine the degree of damage of the heart muscle.


An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart. It helps in finding out which parts of the heart are not pumping out blood normally. The test helps in identifying the area of your heart that is damaged such as problems with heart valves or chambers.

Coronary angiography

A coronary angiography helps in locating the blocked areas in the coronary arteries. During the procedure, a thin hollow tube (catheter) is passed through an artery. A special dye known as a contrast medium is injected into the catheter, which highlights the narrowed or blocked blood vessels on X-ray.

Chest X-ray

A chest X-ray is helpful in identifying the possible complications of heart attack such as pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation in the lung) and enlargement of heart chambers.

How to treat a heart attack?

It is not advised to delay the treatment if you experience any symptoms of heart attack. Immediate medical attention reduces the complications of heart attack.


Antiplatelet and anticoagulants help to prevent blood clots.

Thrombolytics dissolve the blood clots and enable the free blood flow to your heart.

Pain relievers relieve chest pain.

Nitroglycerin helps in widening the blood vessels and increases the blood flow to the heart.

ACE inhibitor medications help in controlling the blood pressure.

Surgical procedures

Coronary angioplasty and stent placement

Coronary angioplasty helps in correcting the blocked artery. During the surgery, the doctor inserts a thin tube (catheter) through the blocked artery. A special balloon is attached to the catheter which opens up the blocked coronary artery. A small, mesh tube known as a stent is placed in the blocked area which increases the diameter of the blood vessel and restores the blood flow to the heart.

Coronary artery bypass surgery

This is a surgery in which a healthy blood vessel is connected or grafted to the blocked artery of the heart. This new blood vessel bypasses the blocked part of the blood vessel and provides a new route for the blood to flow.

Complications of a heart attack

The damage caused by a heart attack can result in the following complications:

A sudden heart attack can develop abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), which can be fatal.

The damage caused to the heart muscle may decrease the capacity of your heart to pump blood to the other parts of the body. This can result in temporary or permanent heart failure.

Your weakened heart muscle may rupture.

A heart attack may damage your heart valves.

Preventive measures

Following certain lifestyle changes helps in preventing the risk of heart attack.

Healthy eating habits: The food that you consume plays a major role in controlling the risk of heart attack. Foods rich in high unsaturated fat like oily fish, legumes, and nuts increase the level of good cholesterol. Saturated fats which is present in meat and dairy products would increase your cholesterol levels. Avoid taking high amounts of salts and sugars in your diet.

Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity like walking, cycling and swimming keeps you fit, improves heart function and helps in maintaining your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Quit smoking and drinking alcohol: Smoking and consuming alcohol raises blood pressure and increases the risk of heart attacks.

Control Weight: Obesity is a major risk factor associated with heart disease. Increased physical activity and healthy diet can help to maintain healthy body weight.

Monitor your cholesterol and blood pressure levels: Abnormal lipid levels and high blood pressure might lead to cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack. Regular health checkups help to reduce the risk factors that contribute to heart attack.

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Rajeev Gupta, Indu Mohan M, Jagat Narula. Trends in Coronary Heart Disease Epidemiology in India. Annals of Global Health. Volume 82, Issue 2, March–April 2016, Pages 307-315

Heart attack – Diagnosis. https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Heart-attack/Pages/D... . Accessed on 23-10-2017

Tests and diagnosis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hea... . Accessed on 23-10-2017

How is heart attack diagnosed? https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/heart-di... . Accessed on 23-10-2017

Diseases and conditions – Heart attack. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hea... . Accessed on 23-10-2017

Complications. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hea... . Accessed on 23-10-2017

Heart attack – prevention. https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Heart-attack/Pages/P... . Accessed on 23-10-2017

Lifestyle and home remedies. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hea... . Accessed on 23-10-2017

Treatments and drugs. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hea... . Accessed on 23-10-2017

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